While there is no cure for arthritis, natural remedies, such as swimming, acupuncture, and massage, may help to relieve pain, stiffness, and swelling related to the condition.

There are more than 100 types of arthritis that affect an estimated 54.4 million adults in the United States.

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA). It is a degenerative condition that causes joint cartilages to wear away and bones to change. People with OA experience pain, aching, swelling, stiffness, and a decreased range of motion or flexibility.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is another form of arthritis. It is an inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks healthy cells, leading to painful swelling in the joints. During an RA attack or flare-up, the joint becomes inflamed, leading to tissue damage.

Some people can try the following natural remedies to help ease the symptoms of arthritis.

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According to CreakyJoints, home remedies and lifestyle changes can help to treat the symptoms of arthritis. However, it is important to note that they should not replace medical treatment.

There is little scientific evidence to suggest that some natural remedies are effective. In addition, some remedies, such as herbal supplements, are not regulated in the same way as prescription medications.

People should consider seeing a doctor before trying a natural remedy for arthritis. This is to ensure that it is safe for a person to try and that it will not interfere with other types of arthritis treatments they may currently be taking.

A person should speak with a healthcare professional to find out which is the best natural remedy for them to try.

Healthcare professionals may recommend physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that physical activity can provide the same benefits as over-the-counter (OTC) medications. It can also help to reduce anxiety and improve a person’s physical function and mood.

Heat therapy may be another option that a person can try at home. According to the Arthritis Foundation (AF), heat therapy can relieve stiff joints and achy muscles in those with arthritis. This widens the blood vessels, allowing more blood to pass through.

The CDC state that physical activity can improve the quality of life for those with arthritis. They suggest that the following forms of exercise are safe for most adults:

  • swimming
  • walking
  • biking
  • other water activities, such as aqua jogging and water aerobics

The pain of arthritis may result in people avoiding moving the affected joints. Over time, however, inactivity has a negative impact on the joints, which can lead to muscular atrophy and losing the range of motion in the ligaments.

Exercising in water is a gentle way to move the impacted joint and maintain muscle strength. Swimming provides gentle resistance while still being easy on the joints due to the decreased effect of gravity on the body’s movements.

Swimming can also:

  • stimulate blood circulation
  • improve joint flexibility
  • reduce pain
  • ease muscle stiffness
  • build strength and improve cardiovascular fitness
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Learn more about physical activity and arthritis:

The goal of physical therapy is to improve flexibility, range of motion, strength, and the ability to use an injured joint.

The AF says a physical therapist designs an exercise program to help rebuild strength, improve coordination, and teach correct posture and motion to lessen pain.

A 2016 systematic review examined the impact that physical therapy may have on people with RA. The authors found that it may provide more pain relief than standard rheumatology care.

In a 2015 study, 490 people took medication to treat RA in their hands, and half of the participants added hand-strengthening exercises to their treatment plan.

The researchers found that those who engaged in hand exercises saw improvements in their muscle strength and hand flexibility after 12 months.

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Learn more about physical therapy for arthritis:

Heat therapy can help to soothe aching muscles and loosen stiff joints. It expands the blood vessels, increasing the amount of blood and oxygen that flows to an injured area. More blood flow results in a looser, less painful joint.

However, people should avoid using heat therapy if they are experiencing a flare. If a person is experiencing a sudden onset of swelling, cold therapy may be preferable as it decreases inflammation and blood flow.

People can alternate between hot and cold therapy to ease joint pain. If they do this, they should leave it a few hours between each session.

For heat therapy, a person can try a warm, steamy shower or bath or use a heating pad for 20 minutes at a time.

Learn more about hot or cold therapy here.

Massage can lessen the pain of arthritis.

Research has found that massage lowers cortisol levels, increases the mood-lifting hormone serotonin, and lowers blood pressure.

A 2019 study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that a 1-hour whole-body massage lessened pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

A group of 222 participants underwent Swedish massage, light touch, or their standard care for 8 weeks. Standard care consisted of the participants’ regular care routine for osteoarthritis.

Eight weeks of Swedish massage showed significant improvement in symptoms. Pain and stiffness lessened, alongside an improvement in joint function.

For those with arthritis, yoga can help to:

  • improve physical function
  • improve flexibility and range of motion
  • help people to relax

The following tips may be helpful:

  • Beginning with a gentle yoga or flow class that allows participants to move through poses in short amounts of time.
  • Speaking with the instructor beforehand, if possible, to let them know about the condition.
  • Trying to practice yoga later in the day when joints are looser.

People with RA should speak with a healthcare professional about whether to practice yoga during a flare-up.

Learn more about yoga and psoriatic arthritis here.

Voltaren gel and capsaicin creams are examples of topical treatments that are available from pharmacies.

VersusArthritis notes that capsaicin comes from chili peppers and decreases substance P, which is a pain transmitter in the nerves. A person may experience a mild burning sensation when applying it to the skin. However, tissue damage is not the cause of the sensation.

Voltaren is a topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or anti-inflammatory pain reliever.

Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) works through a device that uses small electrode pads to send an electrical signal that reduces the body’s pain response. It may also trigger natural pain-relieving hormones in the brain.

A 2015 Cochrane review evaluated 19 clinical trials that included 1,346 participants. TENS treatments reduced the intensity of pain, but results were inconsistent across trials.

Learn more about the best TENS units here.

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine.

During a treatment session, an acupuncture practitioner inserts thin stainless-steel needles into specific points on the body to help relieve a range of symptoms.

A 2018 review found that acupuncture may provide relief without any adverse effects in people with RA.

While some research shows that acupuncture can improve arthritis symptoms, researchers do not yet fully understand how it works.

Learn more about acupuncture for arthritis here.

Tai chi is the practice of fluid and gentle movements and offers different styles for people at all fitness levels.

Many people with arthritis prefer The Sun Style, as it uses a standing position with less bending at the knees. It consists of mobility-focused exercises and relaxation.

A 2016 study examined the 204 people who had knee pain and osteoarthritis of the knee.

One group performed tai chi in two 1-hour sessions per week for 12 weeks. The other group took part in two 30-minute physical therapy sessions a week for 6 weeks, followed by 6 weeks of other home-based exercises.

The researchers found that both groups reported a reduction in their pain at 12 weeks. The participants in both groups also had similar improvements in their physical functioning.

Additionally, those who opted for tai chi movement had fewer depression symptoms and improved quality of life compared with those who participated in a stretching and education program.

Mindfulness meditation involves training the mind to pay nonjudgmental attention to thoughts, emotions, and feelings in the body. This may reduce the pain that results from chronic symptoms.

A 2018 study associates mindfulness meditation with lower pain sensitivity. It also notes that it may be effective for individuals who do not have any experience in meditation.

Learn about the seven types of meditation here.

The AF reports that the pressure on joints is about one-and-a-half times a person’s body weight with every step on a flat surface. In people with arthritis, that increases to about four times an individual’s body weight.

A 5 pound (lb) reduction in body weight can reduce the stress on a person’s joints by about 20 lb. This could result in significant pain reduction and help to preserve the remaining joint cartilage.

Omega-3s are a type of essential fatty acid. They are available in fish oil supplements and also in vegetarian forms. When someone takes omega-3s, the body converts them into an anti-inflammatory.

A 2020 review of studies of individuals with RA found that supplementation with omega-3s results in significant decreases in joint pain when compared with control groups.

Learn more about the benefits of fish oil for arthritis here.

Further resources

For more in-depth resources about vitamins, minerals, and supplements, visit our dedicated hub.

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Before taking herbal remedies, people should consult a healthcare professional. This is because they can cause side effects and interact with other medications.

However, a person may wish to try:

  • Turmeric: A 2016 systematic review notes that taking 500 milligrams of turmeric twice per day may help relieve joint pain and stiffness in those with RA and OA.
  • Ginger: A randomized controlled trial in 2019 found that ginger can help to reduce inflammation in those with RA.
  • Boswellia serrata: A systematic review and meta-analysis from 2020 finds that Boswellia extract may be a safe and effective treatment option for OA. The researchers note that a person should take the extract for 4 weeks.
  • Feverfew: The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that people apply feverfew topically to help treat arthritis. There is little research to confirm that it is an effective treatment. However, it does not appear to cause serious side effects.
  • Willow bark extract: This contains an active ingredient called salicin, which reduces the production of chemicals in the nerves that cause pain.

People can take herbal remedies in the following ways:

  • pills and capsules
  • teas
  • infusions
  • topical products
  • extracts

A person can also use herbal remedies such as ginger and turmeric in their cooking.

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Learn more about herbal remedies for arthritis:

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), exercising can help reduce and prevent pain in people with arthritis. The CDC state that it may be best to engage in activities that are easy on the joints, such as cycling, swimming, and walking.

The NHS also recommends following a balanced diet so there is less pressure on the joints. For example, a person can eat fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy products, among others.

The AF provides some tips that may help individuals manage their arthritis:

  • resting when the joints are swollen or in pain
  • improving sleep patterns
  • keeping track of medications and any side effects they might cause
  • managing fatigue, such as staying hydrated

Depending on the remedy, side effects can occur. For example, the NHS states that some people may experience pain, dizziness, drowsiness, or bleeding when undergoing acupuncture. However, this is rare and temporary.

Herbal supplements can also lead to side effects. For example, the AF says doctors may not recommend ginger and chamomile for those who take warfarin. This is because they may interact with the medication and increase bleeding risk.

As for heat therapy, the NHS advises against applying hot water bottles directly to the skin or filling them with boiling water. A person should also avoid lying or sleeping on heat packs as these can cause burns.

The following are FAQS regarding natural remedies for arthritis.

Is it possible to cure arthritis?

There is no cure for arthritis.

However, a person can opt for natural remedies alongside their medical treatment, such as yoga, skin products, and warm compresses, among others, to help manage their symptoms.

There are also workshops that help people live with this condition and learn about others’ experiences.

Which essential oils work best for joint pain?

Although research suggests essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these oils. A person should talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils and research the quality of a particular brand’s products. It is also important to always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

A person can use essential oils topically or in the form of aromatherapy. However, before a person applies an essential oil to the skin, they should combine it with a carrier oil.

Some essential oils that a person can try for joint pain include:

  • Ginger oil: Participants of a 2017 study massaged their knees with ginger oil and noticed that it improved their movements and pain more than those who did not use this type of treatment.
  • Orange oil: A 2017 randomized clinical trial studied the effects of aromatherapy with orange oil in people who had fractured limbs. It concluded that inhaling the oil can decrease pain.
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Learn more about essential oils for arthritis:

While there is no cure for arthritis, many natural remedies can help alleviate pain, swelling, and stiffness.

A person should speak with a doctor before trying any natural remedies, as this ensures that the treatment is safe for them.